Richard Montgomery High School
Claudia Ann Seaman Award
Runner-Up for Poetry
- she who computes.
- she who flexes her fine fingers and steps up to
tame the wild machine.
- she who weaves wires into electric quilts of capability. calculator
cog woman. punch card priestess. poetess
of bits and binary.
- she who spins stories out of circuitry.
- she who solders soldiers that match the might of man,
- she who, like a mother, combs through switches and wires,
mining lice from her child’s hair, debugging.
- she who writes books that move men to the moon,
piled up in her own paper rocket-ship. claim your place
in the stars. future first women on mars will follow your
sharp footsteps, slick heels,
- she who cooks the best meals.
- she who cleans homes and cares for the children,
who pioneers by day and patches
ripped jeans by night. programming
is as intricate as crochet, in a way; programming
requires the sharp eye of
- she who scrubs every smudge and
irons every crease and
arranges every portrait on the wall.
programming is for her.
you were crowned queens of computing before you succumbed to the shadows.
you died forgotten empresses, female pharaohs: mummified in
black-and-white snapshots, and when programmers forgot how to wear skirts,
history forgot who you were.
they buried you in unmarked graves for us dreamer girls to dig up:
dreamer girls in a world where every search spans a snap and every library
lingers one finger tap away and every database, every dictionary
displays at the drag of a key. and yet all we find when we search for
your names is this obsolete entry and your snapshot sarcophagi and your
headstones heralded by dust.
and we brush away the cobwebs.
and we read aloud your names.
This poem contains as many clever nuances as it does definitions for the word "computer". Amid intricate alliteration and complex structure, the sharp, punchy voice flows seamlessly from one definition to the next. The resulting dictionary entry beautifully articulates the contributions of women, their forgotten history, and how their legacy lasts through the active efforts of young women today.
PRAISE FROM TARA BETTS, POETRY JUDGE
Although there have been books about historic instances of women in computing like "Hidden Figures" and "Code Girls," this poem is a tribute to those women who have been pioneers in STEM fields, while many of them worked the unseen second shift of being mothers and partners. The turn from a poem that begins with as a definition poem with anaphoric repetitions, shifts to a short praise poem addressed directly to those women. It's a story that is simultaneously needed in more history books, yet all too often, overlooked.
Caroline Dinh is a Vietnamese-American writer and artist. Her hobbies include painting, poetry, prose, and programming—sometimes all at the same time. She's mildly obsessed with leitmotifs, hackathons, and the color cyan. Caroline currently attends Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, where she will graduate in 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR